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Data Backups vs. Replication: Which do you need?

Data backups and replication are both related to disaster recovery, but they aren’t the same thing. There are important differences in what they are used for and how they are set up. Only by understanding the differences can you determine whether your business needs just one solution or both of them.

Data Backups

Data backups involve copying both critical and non-critical data periodically. They are typically performed once a day, but it can be more or less often, depending on a company’s needs.

Once created, the backup files are stored on a storage device, which can be located onsite, offsite (e.g., online, at a company facility in a different part of the country), or both. However, only storing the backup files onsite is not ideal. If a natural disaster such as a flood or tornado strikes, both the original data and the backup files could be destroyed.

It is relatively inexpensive to perform and store data backups. Plus, they are well suited for compliance with government and industry regulations, as the backup files can be kept for as long as needed. However, data backups do not ensure continuity of operations if there is a disaster or system failure since it can take a while to set up a new system and restore the data from the backup files.


Replication involves copying and moving data to an offsite, secondary system, usually with greater frequency then traditional backups. The secondary system must be able to bring servers and applications online in a timely fashion.  Replication is typically used for critical data that must always be readily available.

Replication solutions are designed to ensure that critical data and the applications used to work with that data are always available if there is a system failure or disaster. However, setting up and maintaining a replication solution can be expensive because the secondary system needs to be very similar to the primary system.

What Should You Use?

Data backups and replication address different types of risks. Backups ensure that a business can recover its data after a system failure or disaster (disaster recovery), while replication ensures that critical data and applications are available for use if the primary system goes down (high availability).

Every business needs to be backing up its data regularly as well as making sure it can restore its data from those backups. A business might also need a replication solution if it has critical data and applications that always need to be available. If recovery points are created, the secondary system could serve as a backup mechanism for the critical data. However, a data backup solution would still be needed for the business’s non-critical data.

Contact us for more on whether you need one or both solutions for your business.